Volunteer Spotlight: From Research to Roaring Nights
I am a behavioral research volunteer at the Los Angeles Zoo, which means I spend most of my time observing animals’ behavior, including their independent behaviors and social interactions. Aside from the occasional question I get and redirect to a helpful docent or student volunteer, I am there to collect data for research purposes. This month, I was able to try something new and volunteer at the Zoo’s last music event of the summer.
Before getting into the details, I’d like to share a little bit of my background. I have volunteered in a variety of fields, such as foster youth advocacy and academic clubs. As much as I’ve enjoyed encouraging teens to pursue a college education and helping college students to network with science professionals for internship opportunities, I really wanted to work with animals.
When a friend pointed me in the direction of the Los Angeles Zoo, I was excited to volunteer in animal behavior research. The program required a completion of a 10-week animal behavior course through UCLA Extension, and I’ve since participated in the studies of jaguars, double-wattled cassowary, chuckwallas, the Cape rock lizard, sarus crane, California kingsnake, and the Zoo’s American alligator, Reggie. I had originally intended to study big cats and mammals, but it wasn’t long until I became curious to study other, lesser-known animals. It has been quite an enjoyable experience.
This month, I decided to volunteer for an event—the summer music series Roaring Nights. Instead of observing animals, I assisted at a social event for humans. Interacting with people was something outside of my usual Zoo experience, but something I wanted to try. The event was ’80s themed and dressing up was encouraged.
When it comes to accessorizing, you don’t have to tell me twice! I got into the full spirit of the era and I even practiced my “Valley girl” voice. That is how excited I was for the night!
I didn’t know what to expect. I was assigned crowd control at the gorilla exhibit and elephant circle, and I had to monitor lines at the food trucks. The night went smoothly. While the crowd was lively, I didn’t have to “control” much; everyone was mature and seemed to be having a lot of fun. Even I had fun as a volunteer, assisting guests. Outfits were awesome and the ’80s music and live band were great! The Michael Jackson tribute, which I just had to see, was incredible.
I enjoyed socializing with the public because it was nice to do something a little different—interacting with visitors and answering the usual “where is” questions as well as questions about what I do as a volunteer. My L.A. Zoo Volunteer shirt made it obvious what I was doing there.
I’m looking forward to next year’s summer series—to volunteering as well as enjoying the event with friends. I wonder what theme it’ll be. Regardless, I’ll be ready!